A Longitudinal Examination of Children's Emotion Regulation Problems, Negative Parenting Behaviors, and the Development of Internalizing Behavior Problems

by Fan, Catherine Kay, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, 2011, 132 pages; 3476432


Internalizing problems in preschool have been found to predict later anxiety and depressive disorders, and outcomes may vary according to children's gender. Preschool children's transitions to school pose additional risks, as this developmental period is associated with increased social and cognitive demands. Despite the significance of this age group and the long-term implications associated with early internalizing symptoms, most studies have focused on early behavior problems; relatively few have examined early precursors of internalizing disorders. One potential risk factor, particularly during the preschool-to-school age transition, is emotion dysregulation. Specifically, emotion overregulation, or excessive control of emotions, is ill-defined in current literature but may be associated with later internalizing outcomes. Therefore, in the present study, operational definitions of emotion overregulation were examined and clarified. Structural equation modeling analyses were also conducted to investigate both concurrent and longitudinal relationships between overregulation, negative parenting, and internalizing outcome variables. The potential roles of social context and gender in relationships with children's adjustment were also explored. Participants were 235 children (113 girls) at elevated risk for behavior problems. Children's emotion dysregulation was assessed using a multi-method approach: (1) laboratory-based behavioral task; (2) mothers' reports of children's emotion overregulation-related temperament; and (3) teachers' reports of children's emotion dysregulated behavior. Negative parenting behaviors were assessed via maternal parenting questionnaires. Mothers and teachers reported on child internalizing outcomes at ages 3, 6, and 10 years. Our analysis revealed several interesting pathways between predictor variables and internalizing outcomes. In particular, several emotion overregulation variables predicted internalizing behaviors concurrently and longitudinally, and negative parenting predicted internalizing behaviors across time. Shy temperament, negative parenting, and internalizing behaviors were also stable from preschool to kindergarten, and prediction models also suggested temporal stability of these variables from preschool to late school-age. As expected, some differences between mother- and teacher-reported outcomes were found, suggesting the importance of examining multiple contexts. Although gender was not a significant moderator in the proposed model relationships, unique gender-related findings were revealed. Results are discussed with respect to the value of multi-contextual, multi-level analyses of children's early emotion regulation abilities and parenting behaviors for prevention of internalizing behavior problems.

AdviserSheryl L. Olson
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsDevelopmental psychology; Clinical psychology
Publication Number3476432

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